Kelly M Parisi



George Washington University - Bachelors in Communications

As vice president of marketing and communication at the Ms. Foundation, Kelly Parisi's work isn't just her professional interest — it's her personal passion. As she so eloquently puts it, "I'm able to channel my outrage at women's inequality and gender injustice into action every day."

The Ms. Foundation is a national nonprofit aimed at eliminating barriers for women. The foundation funds and supports local community projects, works to raise visibility of women's issues in the media, publishes informational resources and works at the state and national level to advocate for policy to protect women's rights, safety and wellbeing. Kelly oversees the communications staff; doing everything from meeting with internal and external stakeholders to develop strategic campaigns to brand building and website redesigns.

There's so much more work to do to achieve equality not only with women, but also among women.

With so many nonprofits out there, what prompted you to work for the Ms. Foundation for Women?

The Ms. Foundation fights to eliminate barriers for all women. What attracts me to the Ms. Foundation is its commitment to not just investing funds and expertise in grantee organizations, but also raising the visibility of women's issues in the national arena. Ms. has a powerful, well-respected platform from which we speak out and demand change on the most pressing issues facing women today.

This is actually my second time working for the Ms. Foundation. My degree is in communications and women's studies was my minor, so the Ms. Foundation for Women was the perfect marriage of my professional interests and personal passion.

What does your job involve on a daily basis, and what types of responsibilities do you have in your position?

I oversee the communications staff, working to raise the Ms. Foundation's profile with diverse audiences like donors, legislators and the public. Most recently, we've undergone a brand revitalization to strengthen our messaging, refresh our logo and launch a dynamic new website that's significantly expanded our digital footprint and engagement.

On a daily basis, I spend a lot of time meeting with internal and external stakeholders and developing strategic communications campaigns. This position requires a lot of creativity and flexibility in responding quickly to emerging threats to women's equality. Not surprisingly, strong interpersonal skills are key to managing the different personalities of my staff and coordinating efforts with leadership in other departments.

What is your favorite part of your job?

That I'm able to channel my outrage at women's inequality and gender injustice into action every day. And I do this alongside really intelligent, caring and talented women and men. I also love mentoring staff and helping them grow professionally to take on more responsibilities and new positions.

What challenges keep you awake at night?

The overwhelming need to do more. The last two years have generated record numbers of restrictions on reproductive rights across the country. Women are constantly under attack; whether it's opposition to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, restrictions on access to women's health care or the repeal of equal pay laws that attempt to correct the gender pay gap. There's so much more work to do to achieve equality not only with women, but also among women.

I'm also very sensitive to the need to raise more resources to tackle these problems. Women's organizations suffer significantly from a lack of funding.

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

The Ms. Foundation is a very flexible workplace that really respects the work/life balance. For me, personally, I struggle with this, as so much of the work I do is an extension of issues I care about. So when I'm watching news coverage of women being sexually assaulted or reading about the latest offensive remark from Rush Limbaugh, it's hard not to be in work mode and formulate a strategy or look for an opportunity.

Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?

I don't know if I've ever feel like I've made it! This is a continuous journey and evolution.

What are some of the rules you live by?

Without great risk, there is no great reward.

Treat everyone the way you want to be treated yourself.

Never be afraid to make or admit your mistakes. Some of the greatest lessons I've ever learned have been from my mistakes.

What qualities does one need to possess to be successful in your line of work?

Diplomacy. Collaboration. Innovation. Creativity. Passion. Instinct. Decisiveness.

What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?

Take more calculated risks. Talk less, listen more. You don't need to have all the answers, but you need to ask the right questions.

What was the biggest learning experience for you?

I've learned the most -- but also made the most mistakes -- in managing other people. The hardest part of good management is letting other people make mistakes without intervening. You’re responsible for them so you want them to succeed, but sometimes that means stepping back and helping them learn rather than doing it yourself.